Spell or High Water by Scott Meyer

After a couple of thematically challenging reads, I will freely admit that it was nice to spend a few days back in the land of Kindle popcorn.

I know it may not be the most usual approach to deliberately spread out the books in a series like I’m doing with Meyer’s Magic 2.0—I imagine the more intuitive choice for most readers would be to read the series all in a clump together. But this approach is working for me. In part because it allows for the occasional popcorn palate cleanser when I need one. In part because I remain sufficiently lukewarm on the series that I wouldn’t want to read only these books for any particular length of time.

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Achieving the Impossible

I took a wee break from writing over the weekend. I got some upsetting personal news Friday afternoon and spent that evening in bed reading and playing Make the World Go Away in an endless mental loop.*

Then, Saturday I caught up on not one but two big film releases from 2018 I missed along the way: Mary Poppins Returns and Avengers: Infinity War. Since I saw Mary Poppins Returns early in the day, I’ll write about that one first. I’m assuming I’ll circle back to Infinity War at some point, though there is a certain ludicrosity to me taking on either of these blockbusters so far after the curve.

But that’s where we are. And I have enough thoughts popcorning in my brain about Mary Poppins Returns that I absolutely want to mull over that for a bit.

(Since this is going to more of a critical meditation than a straight-up review, there may be plot details/spoilers that get spilled below the jump. Be warned.)

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Dog, Boxing Glove, Diamond, Pistol

I’ll admit, after coming up with such a fun string of emojis for my last movie review, I played around with the notion of continuing to create emoji strings for this and subsequent ones. Ultimately, though, I’m just not quite that creative, and there’s no way I could sustain that over the long haul.

Having said that, the emoji string for the next film on the reviewing roster—Guy Ritchie’s Snatch—came pretty easily, so at least I was able to make this a running gag of sorts. (Perhaps a jogging one?)

Anyhow: Snatch. Guy Ritchie. I remember when Ritchie hit it big with this film and its predecessor, but these sort of British gangster flicks aren’t my bag, so I kept Ritchie in my roster of “filmmakers I’ve heard of but not seen” until the Robert Downey Jr.-led Sherlock Holmes. I will also admit to having a guilty-pleasure sort of fondness for 2015’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

But honestly, I probably never would have gotten around to seeing either of Ritchie’s early hits had Snatch not come up on that 100 Movies Bucket List.

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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

  • PopSugar #5: 1Mil+ ratings on Goodreads

I hope these challenge creators quit their obsession with the number of ratings books have on Goodreads. It seems like I have had one of these “more than 1 million ratings” categories every darn year, and based on this Goodreads list, most of what fits this criterion falls into one of two categories:

  1. Books I’ve already read (e.g., LOTR, Harry Potter, various classics)*
  2. Books I have no earthly desire to ever read (e.g., Twilight, 50 Shades)

Luckily for me this year, there are still a very few exceptions to that pattern, including one I was able to crosswalk over to the infamous bucket list. And that is how I came to check The Kite Runner out of the library.

The book has been vaguely on my radar since back when it was a book club phenomenon in the early-to-mid aughts. However, I’m enough of a contrarian that I often stay away from the big popular books like that.** Now, I’m not so much of a contrarian that I’ll let my latent snobbery and non-conformity keep me from reading something I’m legitimately interested in—I was more than happy, for example, to devour the final few Harry Potter books as soon as they were released, just like the rest of the world. But if there’s nothing else about a book that catches my interest aside from it being super-popular, I’m more likely than not to bypass that title in favor of something calling to me in a more personal and authentic fashion.

As such, I never got around to reading this book, until it became a way to check of a challenge category and a scratch-off square.

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100 Books Bucket List

Somewhere in that series of posts setting the context for my 2019 reading challenges, I mentioned an extra twist I was using to “level up” the complexity of my reading plans: a crosswalk with my “Bucket List Poster” to see if I could check off a few of those boxes along the way.

The poster is actually one of a set of three posters I purchased last spring: one for books, one for movies, one for music albums. I’m not entirely sure about the methodology of choosing what made the list—okay, I don’t have any idea what the methodology was. Some mix of legit Anglo-American classics, with some other titles tossed in to represent different genres (e.g., non-fiction, fantasy epic, kids lit, murder mystery), international perspectives, and titles that represent their zeitgeist.

My guess is that the company making these posters is British, both because of some of the inclusions (Dodie Smith? Kenneth Grahame?) and, more importantly, because of the absolute erasure of African-American and post-colonial titles. All of which is to say I wouldn’t want this to be the only source of new titles for me to choose and read,  but I’m happy enough to include it as a piece of a broader landscape.

Besides, having these hanging above my desk at home is a decor choice that is just so me, and I can’t deny the fun of scratching off a new title once I’ve read/viewed/listened to it.

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Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

I do what I can to fill out my reading categories using books I already have, whether they’re on Kindle or physically on the bookshelves. But there’s always a few categories that don’t readily lend themselves to that approach. PopSugar’s call-out to ghost stories this year is definitely one of those outlier categories, so I did what I usually do to make a selection: crawl the challenge discussion boards on Goodreads to get some ideas.

Between the good reviews (both on the boards and in the press), the National Book Award, and the resonance with my ongoing desire to keep reading more books by African-American authors, this seemed a book well worth the choosing.

And indeed it was.

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Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

It is taking some real self-discipline to post a book review tonight. I skipped last night ‘cos I was binge-watching the end of Season 5 from Game of Thrones, and I’d be quite happy to cuddle in with my iPad to watch another few eps tonight.

But I need to get back on schedule for the reading challenge, so I’m limiting screen time today in order to read and report out on what’s been read.*

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